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Nutrition Labels and Obesity

  • Jayachandran N. Variyam
  • John Cawley

The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) imposed significant changes in the information about calories and nutrients that manufacturers of packaged foods must provide to consumers. This paper tests whether the release of this information impacted body weight and obesity among American adults. We estimate the effect of the new label using a difference-in-differences method. We compare the change before and after the implementation of NLEA in body weight among those who use labels when food shopping to that among those who do not use labels. In National Health Interview Survey data we find, among non-Hispanic white women, that the implementation of the new labels was associated with a decrease in body weight and the probability of obesity. Using NLEA regulatory impact analysis benchmarks, we estimate that the total monetary benefit of this decrease in body weight was $63 to $166 billion over a 20-year period, far in excess of the costs of the NLEA.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11956.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11956
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  1. Marianne Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes, 2004. "Welfare Reform and Health," NBER Working Papers 10549, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  3. Finkelstein, Amy, 2002. "The effect of tax subsidies to employer-provided supplementary health insurance: evidence from Canada," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 305-339, June.
  4. Teisl, Mario F. & Levy, Alan S., 1997. "Does Nutrition Labeling Lead To Healthier Eating?," Journal of Food Distribution Research, Food Distribution Research Society, vol. 28(3), October.
  5. Kim, Sung-Yong & Nayga, Rodolfo M., Jr. & Capps, Oral, Jr., 2000. "The Effect Of Food Label Use On Nutrient Intakes: An Endogenous Switching Regression Analysis," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 25(01), July.
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